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Cowgirls take on Columbia Falls to open State A tourney
Forsyth, Wibaux, Jordan also playing
By JOSH SAMUELSON
Star Sports Editor
After a long, impressive weekend at the Eastern A Divisional Tournament, the Custer County District High School Cowgirl volleyball team is headed to Bozeman for the Montana Class A State Tournament, which starts tomorrow.
The Cowgirls played in five of the 10 matches at the divisional tournament, qualifying as the second seed from the Eastern A.
“I think we’re ready to go,” Cowgirl senior Tori Swope said. “We’ve definitely been nailing our faults this week in practice. Playing three matches definitely gets to you. But coming out of divisionals, we were ready to get after it again.”
The Cowgirls aren’t the only local teams to be playing at the All-Class Tournament. Forsyth will be playing in the Class B Tournament, while Jordan and Wibaux will be in the Class C.
The Cowgirls enter the state tournament with a 17-16 record on the season. They will open the tournament against Columbia Falls, the Northwestern A champion, at noon on Thursday.
“I think we’ve made improvements all year long,” Cowgirls head coach Marci Mollman said. “We’ve come together as a team. Our goal
At the divisional tournament, the Cowgirls came out shaky against Hardin and lost in four games. They had to battle back in the loser-out bracket, sweeping Sidney and Laurel to set up a rematch with Hardin.
In that rematch, the Cowgirls handled Hardin in four games, clinching a spot in the state tournament.
“I think it shows them that no matter what the odds are, they can come back,” Mollman said. “As long as they work hard and focus. They were scared the first game, lost sight of what we needed to do and as soon as they realized to play their game and focus, they came back.”
Swope echoed those sentiments.
“I think it shows our skill as a team, when we focus and are ready to go,” Swope said. “I think the nerves got to us a lot and our head weren’t in it. But battling back gives us confidence going into the state tournament.”
The Cowgirls will be making their second trip in three seasons, having qualified two years ago. The Cowgirls have seven seniors on their roster, but Swope and Shaylee Singleton are the only ones that saw time at the state tournament.
“All of our seniors are leaders, whether they’ve been there or not,” Mollman said. “But it helps to know the atmosphere and to be able to have the calming force. Tori is one of our natural leaders and she’s a great calming presence. And then add in Shaylee, and they understand what it means to be there and what they’re going to be up against is helpful.”
The All-Class tournament is an interesting spectacle, with all four classes playing their matches at the same time in the same building.
“Just told them, pretty much not to freak out,” Swope said. “You walk up the runways and there’s lights everywhere and it’s pretty nerve-wracking. It’s awesome, but it’s wild.”
Columbia Falls entered the Northwestern A championship match as the only unbeaten team, having beat Frenchtown in the undefeated semifinal. But, Frenchtown swept Columbia Fallsin the first match before the WildKats rallied to win in four games in the second championship match.
“it looks like they’re a young team,” Mollman said. “They have a freshman setter, who is also their top blocker. They have two or three hitters that are consistently in the top. They’re like us, they have a couple hitters to go to, like we do.”
The winner of their match will take on the winner of Lewistown and Dillon at 6 p.m., on Thursday. The losers of those first-round matches will play on Friday morning at 10 a.m.
FORSYTH LADY DOGIES
The Lady Dogies haven’t played at the state tournament since 1989, but come into the tournament on a roll.
The Lady Dogies are 23-6 on the season, with all six of their losses coming to Huntley Project. Huntley beat them in the championship matches of the Laurel and Hunltey Project Tournaments and then twice at the Southern B Divisional last weekend.
“I think we’ve peaked at the right time,” Forsyth Head Coach Deb Cole said. “We’ve played great offensively and defensively. I couldn’t be more pleased heading into the tournament.”
At the Southern B, the Lady Dogies opened with a sweep of Red Lodge and then swept Boulder in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, they were swept by Huntley but bounced back to sweep Red Lodge for the second time.
In the championship match, the Lady Dogies played well, but eventually lost in five games to Huntley again.
Forsyth has just three seniors on their roster, but have great size with their younger players. Sami Hagadone, Mykaila Jensen and Laura Hein are each over 5’11”.
“We have a pretty well-rounded team,” Cole said. “Our setter, Kayla Fulton, is doing a great job of running the offense. And our main hitters, Kaylee Zard and Ruby Kallenbach, are putting down a lot of kills for us. Allie Cole is playing great defense and our two middle blockers, Hagadone and Hein, are putting up a big block. Our kill leaders can change, the dig leaders change and we serve aggressively.”
Forsyth opens against Deer Lodge at 4 p.m.
“It sounds like Deer Lodge is a solid team, but everyone is at the state tournament,” Cole said. “We’re going to do what we do well, and that’s be aggressive and go after the ball. We want to play the game our style and hopefully get a win in the ropening round. Our girls are focused and ready to go.”
Wibaux Lady Longhorns
The Lady Longhorns rolled through the Eastern C Divisional Tournament last weekend in Sidney, winning the divisional title while going undefeated in the postseason.
“We had an excellent divisional tournament,” Wibaux Head Coach Carmen Smith said. “This is the first divisional title in school history and they played really well.”
The Lady Longhorns are 20-2 on the season, with their only losses coming in the regular season against Terry and Beach, N.D.
At the divisional tournament, Wibaux opened with a sweep of Bainville and then swept Terry in the quarterfinals.
In the undefeated semifinals, the Lady Longhorns beat Circle in four games to clinch their spot in the state tournament and a berth in the championship match.
The Lady Longhorns faced a good Jordan team in the championship match, and earned a sweep of the Lady Mustangs.
This is the sixth trip to the state tournament in school history, and third in a row. They have been the second seed behind Circle in 2011 and Westby-Grenora in 2012.
“It’s great to finally go in as the top seed,” Smith said.
The Lady Longhorns returned just two starters from last season, Chelsea Leach and Sydney Schieffer. Leach, a three-year starter, leads the team in attacks and kills and is also one of their top blockers. Schieffer moved from hitter to setter this season and “sees the floor really well and is our tactical thinker,” according to Smith.
Sophomores Lexi Begger and Hannah Bakken have also stepped in well for the Lady Longhorns.
Wibaux opens the state tournament against Chinook at 10 a.m.
JORDAN LADY MUSTANGS
The Jordan Lady Mustangs took a roundabout way into the State Tournament, having to play six matches at the Eastern C Divisional.
After beat Westby-Grenora in five games in the first-round, the Lady Mustangs were swept by Circle in the quarterfinals. They rallied back with a five-game win over Fairview and a sweep of Terry to set up a rematch with Circle.
In that match, Jordan returned the favor with a sweep of the Lady Wildcats to earn their trip to the state tournament.
“We went into the tournament strong and confident,” Jordan Head Coach Shauna Murnion said. “We ended up losing to Circle, which was unplanned, but the girls were pretty determined to battle back and get to state.”
The Lady Mustangs have very little size. Arielle Billing is the tallest player on the Jordan roster at 5’7”.
“We’re not a big team, but we make up for it with hard work,” Murnion said. “We work very hard at our jobs and that puts us in a good position.”
Billing, along with fellow seniors Carrie Murnion and Shanae Phipps, provide the leadership on the team.
“We have good bunch of seniors, an experienced bunch,” Murnion said. “And then we have a couple juniors and three sophomores, so it’ll be a good group coming back next year.”
Jordan has not reached a state tournament since 2001, when they went twice in the same year. In the winter of 2001, the Lady Mustangs qualified for the state tournament and after the seasons were switched for the 2001-02 school year, they qualified again that fall.
Jordan will take on Winnett-Grass Range at 2 p.m., in the first-round.